SXSW ’12 Interview: Goh Nakamura and Dave Boyle Spring Ahead with “Daylight Savings”

After charming SXSW last year with the road trip romance "Surrogate Valentine," the director and his troubadour star return with an expansion of the universe, and talk about expanding...
Goh Nakamura in Dave Boyle's film Daylight Savings

All our SXSW 2012 coverage can be found here.

It was not lost on the filmmakers behind “Daylight Savings” that their film would premiere, conveniently enough, on the eve of actual daylight savings time on March 11th. But it also was not planned.

“Totally serendipitous,” said director Dave Boyle, which is a nice way to describe his second collaboration with musician Goh Nakamura following “Surrogate Valentine,” the light and lovely road trip romance that played SXSW in 2011. As Boyle and Nakamura explain below, they haven’t wasted anytime in making a followup that sees the sensitive rocker head for the hills after his song “Daylight Savings” draws him unwanted attention when it’s used in a ubiquitous prescription drug commercial and his long-distance relationship breaks up with the same fissure as his Skype connection.

Shot in 15 days, the film once more sees the fictional Nakamura looking for love while on tour, losing his way on a detour through the California desert before his ultimate destination of Las Vegas. Shortly before their premiere at this year’s festival, Boyle and Nakamura talked about their innovative self-distribution of “Valentine,” what sci-fi epic was the surprising inspiration for “Savings,” and the potential for an entire Goh universe with Kickstarter.

The last time we spoke, you were trying out something a little bit different with the distribution of “Surrogate Valentine” by offering the DVD of the film for sale right outside of your screenings, which often were combined with Goh concerts. How did that experiment go?

Dave Boyle: Overall, it went pretty well. We did a lot of combination screening and concert events all over the place and then Warner Brothers picked up the VOD rights and put it out on cable VOD, so that’s still going on. We decided to make “Daylight Savings” when we were on post-production on the last one, so the self-distribution process was intertwined and it’s all blended into one big thing. But overall we were happy with the exposure that we got. The audience started to grow from it. We went in with managed expectations and were pleasantly surprised at how it seemed to keep going.

When one experience bleeds into the next like this one did, does the reception to the first film affect what you want to do in the second?

Goh Nakamura: A little bit, yeah. I think this movie is a little bit less goofy, a little bit more…

DB: A little bit more somber. We were surprised how much people responded to the melancholy nature of Goh’s character in the film, so in the second one we made a conscious decision to go even a little bit darker with that and not worry as much about having lots of gags. In the first one, I feel like I concentrated a lot on making sure there was this constant stream of jokes and I decided not to worry about that as much. If it’s funny, they’ll laugh, if it’s sad, they won’t laugh and leave it at that.

I trust you didn’t have a film festival experience as bad as the one in the film.

DB: [laughs] No, I don’t think so. That’s always your worst nightmare, man.

You actually move towards the desert in this one too, which becomes an interesting parallel to the urban settings of “Surrogate Valentine.” Was that a conscious choice?

GN: I was joking around and my favorite movie is “Empire Strikes Back.” It starts off in Hoth and it goes through all these environmental changes, so I was like it’d be funny to like mirror that shape.

DB: I think really taking him out of his comfort zone was something that I wanted to do. In the very first draft of the script, I lived in Utah for a long time, so we contrived this plotline where he’d end up in Utah and then Goh suggested…because his music producer lives in San Juan Bautista [desert country in California], “why don’t you take a trip out there and see how it inspires you?” I went out there and thought it was a great place and lots of really interesting locals, so I ended up weaving that into Goh’s journey.

The other series I would compare it to would be James Bond since there’s a new romantic interest for Goh each time around. Is that the plan for the franchise?

DB: Pretty much. [laughs] Unlike the Bond franchise, all the previous Goh girls are going to keep coming back to every installment in some form or another.

GN: It’s cool with me.

It’s interesting that Dave said he wanted to get you out of your comfort zone because I would imagine you were feeling more comfortable the second time around since “Surrogate Valentine” was your first film as an actor. What was it like to get back into this?

GN: It was a lot easier, but then I wanted to match the challenge of him making a better film, so I just took it really seriously. It’s a lot meatier. A lot more heartbreak and the tone is much more serious.

You’ve actually said the song “Daylight Savings” was a really serious thing for you, but now as the title of the film and one of its driving plot points as your character’s claim to fame in a hokey drug commercial you loathe, has your mental association with it changed?

GN: There was some issue with me calling this “Daylight Savings” because it was a really personal song about my uncle and it’s kind of about death. I didn’t feel like it fit the movie that much, but putting it in the context of that Relatrix [a fake prescription drug] commercial does now. [laughs] And first, I thought the song’s ruined. I’m never going to want to play this song again. But then a friend of mine covered it and it renewed my faith in the title and also the song.

Goh, you actually aren’t credited with the music for this film, but rather Dreamdate is. How did they come into the picture – quite literally since they appear in the film as well with lead singer Yea Ming-Chen as the love interest?

DB: Goh and one of the producers Gary [Chou] have been friends with Yea Ming for a long time and when we very, very first started talking about making this into a series, they both suggested [her]. So at the San Francisco premiere of “Surrogate Valentine” last year, they introduced me and I thought she and Goh were really funny together. I also liked how she was kind of like the female Goh in a way. She’s a non-actor who’s a professional musician and I thought they complimented each other really well onscreen. So I just asked her if she wanted to do it and then I did the same thing I did with Goh on the first movie where I just spent some time with her to try and get a sense of what her voice was like. She’s not exactly the same as she is in real life, but a lot of her real personality shines through.

Is it true you piece the film together over iChat and texts? If so, does that make the writing process really like a conversation between you two?

DB: We do that quite a bit, especially on the first movie. The second one, we had such a tight time frame to actually make the movie that we had two other writers working with us – Joel Clark and Mike Lerman, who’s also one of the producers – and we basically divided up the script once we had an outline. Everybody took a little piece  —we called it a Frankendraft — and from there we started polishing it until it had some unity. But it was different from any way I’d ever done it before, but I think if we didn’t have all four people working on it, there’s no way we would’ve been able to finish the movie on time.

I can’t believe you’re back at SXSW just a year later.

DB: We couldn’t believe it either. This project has stretched out into basically a blur of one long two-year project and it’s an incredible feeling to have that kind of validation from SXSW.

Are you thinking of continuing on?

GN: There’s going to be a third one, yeah.

DB: Basically, we’re doing a series of Kickstarter projects to help our collaborations together and the one that we’re doing right now is for Goh’s soundtrack album that he’s doing for both the first two movies. We’re also doing something really different for our self-distribution of “Daylight Savings.” The DVD is going to be available in theaters while we’re doing film festival screenings and other that that, it’ll be available as a Kickstarter reward for our projects that we’re hoping to fund.

We would like to do a third movie. We’d also like to do a series of short films, not necessarily about Goh, but about all the other supporting characters that are in this universe like Danny Turner and Yea Ming. We’d love to see that kind of thing happen and then perhaps stitch them together into an omnibus feature film or something like that.

“Daylight Savings” is apparently available through Kickstarter right now here, but if you’re in Austin, it shows three more times at SXSW on March 12th at 9:45 p.m. at the Violet Crown 2, March 15th at 7 p.m. at the Alamo Ritz 2 and March 16th at 4:15 p.m. at the Alamo Ritz 1.

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